Psychotic Disorders of the Nervous System

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  • 0:08 Psychotic Disorders
  • 0:39 Schizophrenia
  • 1:57 Delusional Disorder
  • 4:36 Major Affective Disorders
  • 5:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

This lesson will discuss some psychotic disorders and their general causes. We will go over schizophrenia, delusional disorders, and mood disorders, such as depression and bipolar disorder.

Psychotic Disorders

Many diseases that affect people are infectious in nature. These diseases may be viral, bacterial, fungal, or something similar. But there are other things that we can't see that can cause us to feel sick, too.

The world at large isn't always to blame for our problems, however, as internal havoc can get us into just as much trouble. This lesson will showcase that fact by highlighting a few psychotic disorders that can arise from within.


One of these disorders is known as schizophrenia. This is a serious brain disorder that causes people to see and hear things that aren't there, believe others are out to get them, and become very agitated or withdrawn.

Genetics and environmental factors seem to combine to predispose a person to developing this terrible condition. We know that schizophrenia tends to run in families, and that is why we suspect genetics in this condition. Environmental factors, such as a viral infection early in life, may also predispose an individual to getting this condition.

What we do know is that two chemical messengers implicated in schizophrenia, called glutamate and dopamine, seem to play a role in this disease, although the exact nature of how they do so isn't fully clear. Once diagnosed, the main way schizophrenia is managed is through the use of anti-psychotic medication.

One thing to note is that while schizophrenia is a very serious condition, an individual who has it may not necessarily be 'lost for life,' so to speak. One great example of this is the Nobel Prize-winning mathematician John Nash, the inspiration for the award-winning film A Beautiful Mind starring Russell Crowe.

Delusional Disorder

Aside from schizophrenia, another type of condition that is similar in its vagaries about its true causes and the pathology behind it is known as delusional disorder. This is a condition that causes a person to believe something that is clearly not true. Genetic factors seem to play a role in this condition as well. People with a family history of it seem to be more predisposed to developing it. This, however, cannot rule out environmental factors, such as drug abuse, which may cause this condition.

Like schizophrenia, we also believe that imbalances of chemicals called neurotransmitters in the brain cause this condition. You can liken these chemicals to the molecules that allow the cells in your brain to talk to one another. If there is an imbalance in these chemicals, then some cells may talk too much or too little. If there is improper communication going on, then signals get mixed, aren't understood well enough, or one is paid attention to more than another, resulting in an abnormal behavior. These 'miscommunications' may result in hallucinations, as per schizophrenia, or in delusions, as in delusional disorder.

One of the things people become delusional about in this condition is the belief that a famous person is in love with them, known as eratomanic disorder. Grandiose delusions also exist. This is when someone believes they are far more important than they actually are, but this doesn't include your dad who thinks he's the world's greatest barbecue chef. That aside, another much more terrible delusion is when someone believes they are crawling with parasites and bugs when there are none in reality. Depending on the manifestations of the delusional disorder, everything from medication to counseling may be used to treat this condition.

While based on the descriptions above schizophrenia and delusional disorder may seem similar, they're truly not. One main difference lies in the fact that the false beliefs people with delusional disorder have are possible in the real world but not actually happening. They may believe that the FBI is out to catch them when there's no real evidence for it. The FBI is a real entity, so it's entirely possible it could happen, but it's a delusion because it's an exaggeration of reality.

However, people with schizophrenia will have delusions that aren't realistic, and those delusions may be coupled with hallucinations. Someone with schizophrenia may believe that it's not the FBI that's out to get them but a gigantic fire-breathing green monster. That kind of delusion is completely unrealistic.

Major Affective Disorders

While delusions of grandeur and hallucinations are bad enough, another category of psychiatric disorders I'd like to discuss are collectively called mood (affective) disorders. These are a class of mental disorders that influence a person's mood. Some of the most famous examples of this are:

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